Thursday, April 3, 2014

Ken Follett - World Without End

Eighteen years after the publication of The Pillars of the Earth, Ken Follett has written the the long awaited sequel, World Without End.
World Without End takes place in the same town of Kingsbridge, two centuries after the townspeople finished building the exquisite Gothic cathedral that was at the heart of The Pillars of the Earth. The cathedral and the priory are again at the center of a web of love and hate, greed and pride, ambition and revenge, but this sequel stands on its own. This time, the men and women among an extraordinary cast of characters find themselves at a crossroad of new ideas -- about medicine, commerce, architecture, and justice. In a world where proponents of the old ways fiercely battle those with progressive minds, the intrigue and tension quickly reach a boiling point against the devastating backdrop of the greatest natural disaster ever to strike the human race: the Black Death.

Comment: Once again, one of my best friends, who loves historical fiction, let me borrow another book by this author, after having let me read The Pillars of the Earth. This time, it was the sequel to that story, 200 years after, but within the same world, the city of Kingsbridge. In this new novel, the biggest enemy is the black death and how could they fight it in a world without the resources we have nowadays? I was curious to see what would happen and how the story would be.

Therefore, this story follows the happenings in the other book, this time 200 years from then, in a medieval society, where England is going to war against France again and where the black death strikes. The main focus is on Caris, Merthin, Ralph and Gwenda and how they carry on in live while dealing with wins and defeats and challenges and intrigue. Their story starts in the same innocent way, but soon their lives are shaped by their personalities, their choices and their dreams. How could they find happiness in a world of change?

This book has a new cast of characters and their lives intertwine just like it happened in the previous book, in ways the reader perceives as good or bad, concerning their attitudes. I think the biggest issue in the book is the morality, the common sense and the knowledge of right and wrong of every character. Often, they would act wrong for good reasons, or at least reasons we can justify as human and basic, and other times they would act wrong just for their personal gain. There is a group of characters I liked and often they would do things I don't think were the best ones but I can't find the need to hate them..I'm not sure if it's my own sense of letting it go because of the time they were living in or simply because I could put distance between them and my own thoughts. But there is a constant feel of judgment which I thin it's intentional by the author, to let us watch them do bad actions for good reasons (self defense, rightful order of things, love, loyalty, honor, to help) but how that isn't always put aside. It's an interesting human and emotional dilemma that gave me strong feelings of defense when I thought they were doing the right thing and that made me angry when I thought the should be different.
Another example of this almost philosophical show of human behavior was how some characters, one in particular actually, would think and act wrong and despite the consequences of his terrible actions, sometimes I still understood his reasoning...that character wasn't always harsh and mean, but his excuses weren't as black and white... quite the food for thought these black and white ideas.

My favorite characters were Caris and Merthin. They fought for so long for their happiness and I rooted for them throughout all the book. I would despair when they got defeated in their battles (as I would with any character I'd love) and rejoice when they could be winners. They are center piece in the book and through them happened most of the important scenes. 
The author clearly did a wonderful research on costumes and traditions from the 14th century and the story feels alive with everything pertinent to that era. It was very interesting to see many things, from food, to activities, expectations, professions, medicine and society works. It's a very rich novel indeed.

I had the most amazing time reading. It's a wonderful experience and the fact we follow many character's POVs isn't weird. I kept hoping the good guys could triumph and was glad many things were positive. I've shed a tear when something I wished didn't happen, did and I was riveted all the time I spent reading. This was even better than Pillars of the Earth because I cared for the characters more and even the plot seduced me more. Well, even if one bears in mind many things are still recognizable from the other book, mostly character-types, plot and development patterns. But for me everything worked out well.

Now I'm curious to see how the author works with this type of plot in a modern novel and I already asked my friend to read his 20th century series.
As for this one, it's a winner, so wonderful, it was amazing to spend time with it and be dazzled and provoked and how I learned many things.
Grade: 8/10

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